Even as the US is scaling down its diplomatic presence, a team of Indian officials have left for Juba to meet with all stakeholders in South Sudan, indicating that they will be closing down their mission there.
The delegation of senior officials, led by the joint secretary of the Ministry of External Affairs (West Asia and North Africa) left Delhi for Juba on Saturday. Official sources said that India has no intention to close down the mission, instead the team will assess if “it needs to be strengthened in light of key Indian interests in South Sudan”. On Friday, the US state department announced its evacuation of the mission’s personnel, with only a skeleton staff to be left at the helm.
Meanwhile, direct talks expected between the two warring sides have been delayed, as per reports from the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa. The representatives of both the sides, former Foreign Minister Nhial Deng Nhial and rebel leader Riek Machar were already in the city for talks.
After meetings in Juba, the Indian team will travel to Ethiopia, where they will meet with the mediators of IGAD, the eight-member trading bloc.
India’s ONGC Videsh limited was operating two blocks in South Sudan, but it closed down its operations and evacuated all 11 personnel last month. Two Indian peacekeepers were killed last month when protecting refugees sheltered in their army base from marauding rebel tribes in remote Jonglei. In April 2013, five Indian UN peacekeepers were killed when rebels ambushed their convoy.